Two lawsuits, one by an individual and the other by the Housing Reform Coalition of Los Angeles (HRCLA) and another individual, were brought against the City of Los Angeles. Both lawsuits alleged that the City was violating state law under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act through portions of the Los Angeles Municipal Code and the Rent Adjustment Commission Regulations.
These local laws prohibited housing providers from raising the rent on any vacant unit that was removed from the Rent Escrow Account Program (REAP) for one year after the removal.
The lawsuits claimed that such local laws were in direct violation and pre-empted by the Costa-Hawkins Act, which is state law. Under Costa-Hawkins, when a unit is vacant the housing provider has the right to establish the initial rate for that unit. In other words, when a unit becomes vacant, the housing provider has the right to rent it for market value.
A tentative ruling was issued by Judge Stone in the Los Angeles Superior Court stating that LAMC § 162.09(b) and Rent Adjustment Commission Regulation § 1200.16B appear to be pre-empted by the Costa-Hawkins Act.
In response to this tentative decision, the City elected to settle the lawsuit and change the local law to be in conformance with the state law. The change in law was submitted to the City Counsel and approved.
Additionally, the City agreed to pay attorney’s fees and costs of $75,000, because the lawsuit sought to enforce an important right affecting the public interest.
This win is just the start, there is still much more to be done to protect the rights of housing providers. Please visit the Housing Reform Coalition of Los Angeles’ website at www.hrcla.org for more information on other lawsuits in progress, and to fill out a survey. We need to ban together to prevent further violations of our rights, and confiscation of our property.
Sheri Swist works for the Housing Reform Coalition of Los Angeles and can be reached at Sheri@hrcla.org or 310-869-5153.